Tag Archives: Water Institute

New Sanitation Figures Compete with Official UN Statistics: 6 in 10 Lack Proper Facilities

New Sanitation Figures Compete with Official UN Statistics: 6 in 10 Lack Proper Facilities | Source: by Brett Walton, Circle of Blue, Feb 26, 2013

Official United Nations figures claim that 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation. But new research from the University of North Carolina puts the total at more than 4.1 billion people.

As world leaders and grassroots groups discuss how to reduce poverty and improve lives, debates over precise definitions and accurate measurements are taking on a new urgency. The agenda-setting Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015, but already new definitions for water, sanitation, and hygiene — called WASH by insiders — seek to influence the post-MDG global development agenda.

The open sewer of Vasant Kunj B5 (left) — one of Delhi’s hundreds of slum villages, this one home to 5,000 people — is a trench dug out of the dirt that runs between lean-to homes made from old grain bags and a few bricks. Nearby, the 10,000 residents of Dwarka Sector 16 (right) worked with a local NGO to line their open sewer with concrete.

The open sewer of Vasant Kunj B5 (left) — one of Delhi’s hundreds of slum villages, this one home to 5,000 people — is a trench dug out of the dirt that runs between lean-to homes made from old grain bags and a few bricks. Nearby, the 10,000 residents of Dwarka Sector 16 (right) worked with a local NGO to line their open sewer with concrete.

Last month, the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, challenged official statistics from the United Nations on the number of people without proper toilet facilities: UNC put the figure at 4.1 billion people, compared with 2.5 billion claimed by the United Nations. Both figures assessed conditions in 2010.

The discrepancy between the two sets of sanitation figures comes from different accounting methods. The United Nations measures hardware — the toilet, in this case — and how well it protects the user from immediate contact with the waste. The UNC researchers, on the other hand, approached the question from a public health angle: they also considered hardware, but in a broader sense, by asking whether or not the sewage is treated.

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